Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Project Mary Statue

It only seems fitting that in May, Mary's month, that I should start to propagate this idea that I had a few months back. Honestly, I don't know if anything will come of it: Maybe a few of my friends will humor me and if that's all that happens, that's okay.

I want all conservative Catholics to rally 'round and get a Mary statue for their front yards. The most common is Our Lady of Grace, of course, but there are others to choose from. You can get them in colors from sand to limestone, as well as the full-color ones, either in resin, cement, or vinyl. If you're into kitschy folk art and the directors of your homeowner's association won't pitch a fit, you could even make a "bathtub Madonna" shrine.

I think we need some solidarity, when the likes of Nancy Pelosi and University of Notre Dame president Reverend John Jenkins and other liberal Catholics are causing such scandal and embarrassment.
I think we need to rally so that we can identify each other and say a prayer every time we see a Mary statue in front of someone's house: We can say a prayer for the person or family who lives there and we can pray for all Catholics. The girls and I already do this. Every time we pass a house with a Mary statue, we say a Hail Mary for that family.

I think we all need Mary statues as a quiet way of evangelizing and showing our pride in and love for the faith that has stood strong through the twenty centuries since Jesus asked Peter to "feed His sheep" in Jerusalem.

Here are more of my thoughts on the subject, if you care to read them:

I think I had leanings toward the Catholic Church from my earliest childhood. I can remember being around five or six and watching television very early on Saturday mornings; back at that time, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis was sponsoring one minute spots that featured some lovely woodland scenes, plus a shot of a Bible and a rosary posed on some kind of table, with a voice over praying the Our Father and the Hail Mary to begin the day's broadcasting, right after the pledge of allegiance, which was sponsored either by the American Legion or by the station itself, I don't know. It's been, well, a bit of a long time ago. *ahem*

I remember loving that. And I also remember seeing Mary statues in front of a few houses in my neighborhood and feeling that those people were very lucky to be able to make a pretty religious display in front of their homes year round, while all of us Protestants just got to make a good show of it at Christmas time.

Naturally, when I knew for a fact that I was going to be a Catholic someday -- I considered myself a Catholic for at least a year before I was able to receive the sacraments and started wearing a crucifix necklace about two years before that -- I wanted a Mary statue too. And I didn't just want a statue -- I wanted a special garden to put it in. My husband was not all that enthused at the idea of having a Catholic statue in his backyard (I didn't have the courage to suggest the front yard just then), but I bought all the plants, shrubs and the statue itself with my birthday money and I dug up the soil at the farthest southern end of our big yard, so he just set his jaw and shrugged noncomittally.

Later on, he received a conversion that made mine into a very dull tale indeed, and we ended up with the Our Lady of Grace statue coming up to the front yard, where my husband placed it in front of a flowering shrub. We got a St. Francis statue for the back.

The placement of the Mary statue in the front yard caused the neighbor lady, who was a devoted attendee at the local Assembly of God church, to approach my husband and say with a slitty-eyed look, "I heard you all are Catholics now."

"Yes, we are," he replied, leaning on his weed eater.

"Well, I know Shelley's parents and she wasn't raised that way."

"No...." my husband said, but I ask you, what else is there to say?

"I'm surprised they let her do that," the neighbor lady continued, lingering, perhaps, to see if I was going to bring the girls out for our evening worship service in front of our graven image.

"She's, um, thirty-eight years old. I don't think they feel they have much say in the matter."
After that, the neighbor lady was noticeably cold towards the four of us and later accused us of trying to steal an old ladder her husband (who always remained friendly and kind) had let us borrow on a long-term basis.

When we moved to this house, I had my original Mary statue out front for a while -- it was the heavy cement kind and there was just the place for it before the front window. However, it wasn't a very big statue for such a large space, and I began to feel that I'd like something a little more substantial there, like, say, a huge chunk of cement in the form of a shrine with Mary on the inside, weighing around three hundred pounds.

I got that as a combined Mother's Day and birthday present four years ago and I gave my other statue to my friend Celia. Celia seemed like a good person to get that statue, although I didn't know this story when I first hefted it into my car and drove it out to her house: One day, when her kids were much smaller than the teenagers they are now, Celia was driving in Noblesville or someplace in the area and saw a little Mom-n-Pop lawn and garden place that was going out of business.

This business had bunches of lawn statuary, everything from Grecian woman balancing urns on their shoulders to recumbent deer to those little kissing Dutch children. There was some sort of sign that indicated everything was being let go for pennies on the dollar, and Celia happened to spy an entire gathering of Mary statues, so she pulled into the parking lot and asked how much.

"How much per statue?" the owner queried.

"No, how much for all of them?" Celia asked, probably in her cheerful, sparkly-eyed way that is so exuberant and irresistable.

The owner named a remarkably low price and Celia had that much money, so she whipped out her wallet and paid him, telling him to guard those statues carefully so that she could go home and get her husband's truck. She zoomed back home and uttered a confusing story to her husband, Luigi, who was understandably mystified at being told that he was now the proud owner of about twenty cement Mary statues.

Celia, nothing daunted, piled the kiddoes into the truck and went back to the garden store, where the owner helped her load up all the statues. Sometimes I think about that and what a sight it must have been as she sedately pulled the truck out of the parking lot and proceeded along the road with all those Mary statues' heads peeping up over the bed of the truck.

Here's the best part, though: Celia and the kids drove to the house of every Catholic friend they could think of and gave them all a free statue.

Isn't that just the funniest and sweetest story?

So! It's the time of year for getting your yard all spiffy and planting flowers and edging the walkways. I urge you to get a Mary statue and place it in front of your house, or maybe in its own little garden, or maybe just on your front porch or steps.

Put it where it is visible and where it can testify to the faith in Christ Jesus that you hold dear. You want to get right on it, because the girls and I may be driving by soon, and how will we know to pray for you if we don't see Mary?


Kayte said...

That is so like Celia to do something that nice! She is just a sweetheart. Your statue looks lovely...did you do all that??? I am so impressed...you always say that you cannot garden or keep plants alive...this looks very pretty.

Shelley said...

Oh, Kayte...it's so cute that you think that's my Mary Garden. You know I don't know how to make the pictures that live inside Nikki go on the computer.

Our little Mary Garden is actually very nice, though. I have these two spiky long grass thingies planted on either side of our front yard shrine, and then we plant red geraniums and marigolds (of course) in a semi-circle in front of it, so it kind of looks like she's standing among the flowers. It's very pretty and bright and cheerful.

I can grow some stuff. I just don't always know what it's called.